Rock Climbing Kalymnos Greece

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Table of Contents

“The police come from Athens and they are very strict,” replied Mr. Kipreos, owner of Kipreos Rentals, when we explained to him that our friends came earlier in May and had no problems renting a car using their Singapore driver’s licences. He apologized and reiterated that he would only rent us a car if we had either an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a European license.

Kipreos Rentals operates out of an office at the port of Pothia, approximately 12km from Masouri, our Airbnb location. Earlier in the day, we met up at the port when my ferry arrived from Rhodes while my friends Bel and May arrived an hour later from Kos, both, together with Kalymnos, form part of the Dodecanese group of islands.

For a moment, we were lost. It was already evening and we had no car. No car means no transport, which means disruptions to grocery shopping, R&R and, most importantly, to our climbing plans. We decided to go back to Masouri for dinner, hoping that a solution will appear somehow. We hailed a cab, got on and met the affable Antonis, who spoke more with his hands than his mouth. Along the way, he pointed out famous Kalymnian landmarks, stopped by and waited for us at a supermarket for an extra Eur 3, and solved our transport woes by offering to pick us up whenever we called, at whatever time and place. “Whatever you want,” is his tagline. We alighted after fixing the pick-up time for tomorrow’s trip to our first crag. Transportation – settled.

Day 1: Odyssey

First climbing day and our test-run for the next three days. Named after Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey offers something for everyone: 5b+ to 6a+ (24 routes); 6b to 7a (23 routes); 7a+ to 7c (26 routes); 7c+ and above (19 routes). There is even a route, Mon Amour (6a, 28m), that inspired Norwegian writer and climbing enthusiast Jo Nesbo to write a short story.

Halfway through the climb, we understood visually what the guideline “Shade: Until 13:30” means. We could see the sun/shade dividing line getting closer as time passed. When the line hit us, no matter how much we would like to continue, we had to concede defeat to the unbearable, piercing heat during the hottest season in Kalymnos.

After our climbs, we called Antonis before starting our trek down. Ten minutes after we reached the main road, one of his cab-brothers arrived. We realized then that there is a network thing going on. If the main point of contact (Antonis, in our case) is not available, he will call his cab-brother nearest the clients to pick them up. Jet-lag started to kick in and we decided to go back to Sdregas Flats (Eur 150/night for Deluxe Apartment), our sanctuary for the next few days, before deciding what to do next. Our apartment has a living room and kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a toilet with washing machine and a huge balcony with awe-inspiring views of Telendos island and the Aegean sea. It is also a short walk to the thoroughfare of Masouri, aptly called Main Street. Gear shops, supermarkets, restaurants, ice-cream parlours, cafes and massage places line both sides of Main Street, making it our focus point for après-climb activities and a relaxing street for free-and-easy perambulation. R&R and grocery shopping – settled.

View of Telendos from our Airbnb apartment

Day 2: Arginonta

We decided to wake up 2 hours earlier at 5:45 am to lengthen our climbing window.

Cab-brother Alexis picked us up punctually at 7am and ferried us to Arginonta (Eur 15 each way), slightly further away from Odyssey. In his mid-fifties with peppered hair and a Hollywood smile, Alexis is a cab-driver by day and a restauranteur by night. A little more about him later.

Arginonta became our climbing focus point for two reasons: 1) The section Infrared Wall, sometimes called “the 6b wall,” has some of the best 6bs on the island; 2) Bel found her project for the trip, Avri (6b, 15m) with this route description: “Cool moves between good holds on an excellent red wall. Pumpy but well-bolted.”

Kosmas (6b, 30m) taught me that route description can sometimes help in onsighting: “A pocketed, steep wall. Good holds keep coming, don’t give up.” I was about to give up several times when I remembered the route description, told myself to commit just one more time, and the good hold just appeared thereafter. Another lesson learnt.

Routes at Odyssey are comparatively stiffer than those at Arginonta. Perhaps the routes at Odyssey are more exposed? Perhaps our warmed-up bodies after the Odyssey session made the routes at Arginonta more doable? Regardless, all the routes that we have tried are just awesome.

Cab-brother Adonis picked us up after the climb. When we introduced ourselves, he said that many Kalymnians know Singapore as a transit point to Australia, specifically Darwin, to which, since WWII, their grandparents and later, themselves, went to make a living. Adonis chose to return because “although the money is good in Darwin, the life is better here.” Later, while we were practising our Greek with him [Kalimera (Good day), Kalispera (Good evening), Efharisto (Thank you) and Paragallo (You’re welcome)], a reckless driver cut into the lane and we heard our very first Greek swear word. We requested for a repeat, said the word again and again, and by the time we arrived back to the apartment, we could swear like a native. Curiously, we seemed to have made Adonis’s day.

We chose Prego (Vouros Palace Hotel, Massouri Main Street) for dinner. [Note: On Kalymnos, there is no proper address system. To find a place, you go to the area where it is located and start asking around.] Bel ordered lamb stew (Eur 12). The succulent lamb was actually quite small, but we realized that the chef might have wanted us to also appreciate the bourguignon-like gravy by wiping it off the bowl with the lightly-toasted bread, home-made of course. This dish evidently shows that Kalymnians are as good at game cuisine as they are at seafood.

“The 6b Wall” at Arginonta

Day 3: Arginonta

We followed Day 2’s crag arrival time of 7:30 am, giving us a solid 6 hours of climbing time.

Continuing on “the 6b wall,” we tried out Pornokini (6a, 28m), Bouboulina (6b, 25m), Anna-Maria (6c, 25m) and Barba Yorghos (6c+, 25m), all rated 3 stars by the Kalymnos Rock Climbing Guidebook (Eur 40). We were humbled by these creations of Mother Nature and told ourselves that in order to improve, we would have to continue to train hard on stamina and strength, and to pay more attention to our pacing.

Come dinner, we opted for cab-brother Alexis’s restaurant: Smugglers (Myrties, 2km from Masouri). A grandfather, father and son establishment (where Alexis is the father), Smugglers offers, hands down, the best food we’ve had on this trip. We shared deep-fried anchovies (Eur 8) caught earlier that morning, Kalymnian Salad (Eur 8), a local rendition of the world famous Greek salad, and a plate of chubby mussels (Eur 12). We washed all these down with local wine (Eur 2/glass) before the main arrived: an instagrammable grilled fish with potatoes and long beans by the side (Eur 12), tasting as good as it looks. While our taste buds savoured these delights, our eyes feasted on the panoramic view of Telendos during sunset.

Fresh seafood, home-made bread, feta cheese…

Day 4: Telendos

We pampered ourselves by waking up a little later and adopting a “relax climb day” attitude. We also wanted to prevent injury as we have never, in our prior trips, climbed four days consecutively.

None of our fellow climbing friends back home has been to Telendos and we thought it would be pretty cool to be the first ones to go. Ferries leave from Myrties port to Irox jetty, with a brief transit at Telendos main port (Eur 60 for 3 pax, return). Irox jetty is actually just a landing point where you jump off the boat and onto the rocks, with no one stationed there. As such, remember to arrange for a return trip with the boat owner before you begin the 30 minute hike up to the crag section Irox Pescatore.

We attempted Hot Roc (5c, 32m), Axel (6a, 20m), Leane (6a+, 30m) and Agelica Babis Bar (6b+, 30m). Constant effort required for these routes, but at rest points, we were rewarded with amazing views of Kalymnos “mainland,” with Grande Grotta (aka the Big Cave, a crescent-shaped crag with an unbelievable concentration of huge stalactites) fighting for our attention no matter where we looked.

Telendos: A ferry ride across from Kalymnos

************

Our trip started ominously with the car rental problem, but thankfully, everything fell into place when we took things in our stride and went with the flow.

In our opinion, Kalymnos routes are graded neither too soft nor too hard, where a 6b feels like a 6b. We managed to do many climbs on this short trip, possibly due to the presence of three essential ingredients for any good climbing vacation: great view, great food, great accommodation. And may I add a fourth, while taking this opportunity to thank Bel and May for making four days of my life so enjoyable: great company.

With quality and fresh ingredients and impeccable service from the locals, dining here can appropriately be described as atas without the pretension. And at an average total of Eur 45 for a 3-pax dinner (we sometimes add a Eur 5 tip), definitely value for money. Special mention to the pre-course handmade bread for every meal, ever heart-warming…and the feta cheese…and the olives…

Although we are still quite far from understanding Greek, the stunning views of Kalymnos and the gregariousness and hospitality of the Kalymnians require no translation. Our lovely stay on Kalymnos can be best summed up by Bel’s words:

“The place that I climbed well, slept well, ate well and toilet-ed well.
Life is about living simply and happily.

Christabel Wong

Article is written in collaboration with Bel and May

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